I have been helping to facilitate and write the report of the adult literacy facilitators workshop. I talked about human rights today and bored and confused my audience. Many of the participants live in rural communities and all of them are from the interior. I’ve found that the longer a Liberian lives in the interior, the less likely they’ll be able to understand my American English. Which is a problem, as a facilitator.
I also learned that I don’t want to be a facilitator in the Liberian context, I’ll add that to the list of jobs I’ve done that I don’t want to do again. It’s difficult to keep adults attention, it’s difficult to speak slow enough that I make sense, and it’s difficult to look people in the eye, who know a great deal more about human rights violations than I ever care to know, and instruct them on human rights. I think that the job is admirable but I doubt whether I would be very successful at it, as a long term employee. If I did, it would be more as an outside “expert” if you will. And that’s the problem. I can never really see myself as an expert, no matter how long I go to school, in another cultural context. I’m a 5 year old when it comes to washing my clothes, how can I stand in front of a group of adults and act like an expert?
The DELTA workshop is really something, though. It’s full of teambuilding exercises and simple thought provoking exercises. These “consciousness raising” exercises are extraordinarily useful. While I was skeptical at first, I’ve read Friere and I’m familiar with the bottom up development and am a fan, obviously, I still thought that the touchy-feely lets think about our feelings and our past in order to understand our present ideology might not fly in the post-war environment. Instead, it works very well. There are a few exercises which force the participant to think critically about their past, what’s happened to them, and what that means for their work now (they all work in development in some way, literacy, health, agriculture, etc). these seemed the most tense to me but during the group sharing of the “river of life” and “what happened to you during the war” exercises, it became apparent that retraumatizing isn’t really a concern for most people here. To be honest, I don’t know that the trauma ever really goes away for most people and, as they say in the US (but not here), misery loves company.
On that note, we had a session during the DELTA training on the new rape law. The old rape law required evidence such as torn clothes, bodily injury, for it to be considered rape. Obviously, there are situations when someone has a gun to your head when you don’t fight back. So, the law has been amended. This means that everyone needs to know what the new law says and part of DELTA training is to raise awareness so that people can participate as informed citizens in their local and national political process. The new law basically says that if there is not consent from both parties, any penetration of any orifice with anything is rape. Seems pretty straightforward right? Well. Not really. The problem is, women are still very much second class citizens here. There are actually two different cultures, traditionally, for men and women, the Poro and the Sande. Now these secret groups are mostly just social gatherings these days (like the Lions Club or the Masons) but there is still a strong feeling that men and women should have their own specific roles within society and there is a lot of segregation of both groups. Until recently, a woman couldn’t approach a group of men who were talking, she would instead walk all the way around the village to avoid them. I don’t know if that was out of respect or what the original reason behind it was. It’s not often used these days but is still evident in who talks to who and where they sit when they do it. I can only imagine how it must have seemed to the men I met when I arrived and pulled up a chair to join the circle of their conversation. Though I’m sure their use to Americans, I see know that I was a little too forward for my gender role here.
*The first picture somehow depicts development in the community, with the legs of the octopus being different fields. Needless to say, it looks cool. The second picture is a participant in the DELTA training who really liked to talk and was a lot of fun. The third picture is one of the other facilitators telling me about LURD and the Civil War, starting first from Tolbert who was president up until 1979 when he was killed by Doe and a bunch of military guys, which is where most Liberians start when they talk about the war.